Grey is absurd but it’s no howler

Film
THE GREY
Cert: 15 ***

by Stevie Martin

Liam Neeson stars in this surprisingly fun and occasionally grisly survivalist story, complete with treacherous storms, sudden death and jumping off cliffs across mile-high crevasses. When Ottway’s (Neeson) flight home from Alaska goes down, stranding eight men in the middle of nowhere, he knows it’s not just the cold that’s likely to kill.

As the team head south hoping to find civilisation, circling them are a pack of wolves with a penchant for hardcore mauling. Director and co-writer Joe Carnahan (The A-Team) captures the dangerous, ruthless beauty of the frozen landscape as the survivors’ numbers dwindle due to the furry stalkers, as well as the fierce cold.

Oddly, these wolves are not just killing machines, but also apparent fans of the survivalist genre. Their grasp of dramatic tension is admirable, occasionally appearing near the campfire before turning away and leaving the terrified men unscathed. They also have an uncanny knack for picking the men off one by one instead of dealing with them all in one fell swoop. It’s absurd stuff but stays short of laughable thanks to some well executed and pretty gruesome maulings. As well as being avid film buffs, these wolves are nasty pieces of work.

Wolves aside, there’s some forced sentiment involving a poem Ottway’s dad once wrote and Neeson has to grapple with a 2D character complete with a lost love and bottomless supply of meaningful one liners. That said, his makeshift team are an entertaining bunch and this, along with a couple of good quality oh-god-is-he-going-to-fall-down-that-crevasse moments, make for a silly but fun journey through the bloodthirsty Alaskan tundra.